The survey was conducted following the recent RCVS Council decision to redefine ‘Under Care’ to allow vets to prescribe remotely.
692 veterinary surgeons took part in the survey, 88.7% of which worked in practice, 8.7% worked elsewhere and 2.6% are retired.
42.4% worked in corporate practice, 42.4% at an independent practice (spooky), 9.6% locum and 2.6% at a charity.
94% worked in first opinion practice, 5.7% in referral practice.
When asked: “Do you agree with the RCVS Council decision to allow veterinary surgeons to prescribe medication without having seen / examined the animal in person?”, 78.2% said no, 13.6% said yes and 8.2% said ‘ambivalent’.
This raises an interesting discussion about the role of RCVS Council, which the College has long said is ‘representative of’, but not there 'to represent’ the profession in self-regulating.
By any measure, this decision was not ‘representative of’ the wider body of opinion.
It could be argued that electorates vote for representatives to make more informed decisions than they themselves are able, and certainly MPs have voted in ways that are not representative of the wider body of public opinion.
But this is the veterinary profession. MPs have to represent a wide cross-section of society, some groups of which might struggle to field one working brain cell between them.
By contrast, veterinary surgeons are a highly intelligent, highly educated subset of the population, who you might assume are better qualified to make decisions on matters such as these.
So why this level of disagreement? We asked respondents to select any benefits and drawbacks they think remote prescribing will bring, from a list but with the option for them to write in any we hadn’t thought of.
When asked to select benefits of remote prescribing, the majority (70.9%) selected: “Reduced cost to the pet owner (driving/parking etc)’.
39.3% said it would bring an improvement to vets’ quality of life through more flexible working.
27.5% said animal welfare would be improved through increased access to veterinary services.
14.3% said it would bring an ‘Improved client/vet relationship’.
Of those people who selected a benefit, 49.9% said the biggest benefit of remote prescribing is a reduced cost to the pet owner (driving / parking etc).
Other benefits highlighted in the comments section were
Notably, in the comments section for the benefits of remote prescribing, out of the 104 comments, 33 actually commented 'no benefit' or negatively.
When asked to select the drawbacks of remote prescribing, 94.3% selected: ‘Harm to animals caused by misdiagnoses and missed diagnoses.
68% said: Worsened client / vet relationship
60.6% said: Threat to independent practice (corporates funnelling clients from online consults to their practices).
Other drawbacks identified by respondents were:
Amongst the written drawbacks, the biggest themes concerned abuse of drugs and antimicrobial resistance.
When those who had selected a drawback were then asked which was the biggest, 83.3% said ‘Harm to animals caused by misdiagnoses and missed diagnoses”
So in simple terms, in weighing up the pros and cons, it’s between the reduced cost to the owner on the one hand, cited by 70.9%, and harm to animal welfare on the other, cited by 94%. And the harm to animal welfare was selected by significantly more vets as the biggest concern, than reduced cost was selected as the biggest benefit.
In other words, vets think remote prescribing will make veterinary care cheaper, but at the overall cost to animal welfare.
British Veterinary Association President Malcolm Morley said: “New technology presents many opportunities to enhance existing veterinary services, with potential benefits for vets, clients and patients.
"However, we recognise there are concerns within the profession, particularly around the potential unintended consequences of the RCVS’s revised guidance on ‘under care’ in relation to animal welfare and access to veterinary services.
"This survey echoes these concerns as well as supporting the British Veterinary Association’s call for the RCVS to commit to a post-implementation review.”
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Interesting read..though I find one part offensive…
Accidentally clicked send.. the bit I find offensive is ‘
MPs have to represent a wide cross-section of society, some groups of which might struggle to field one working brain cell between them.
By contrast, veterinary surgeons are a highly intelligent, highly educated subset of the population,’. There will of course be sections of the general population that are unable to articulate their needs for various reasons, disability being one. Perhaps it’s intended to be humorous but inferring that our level of qualification means we should be assumed to be correct , without question seems arrogant
Candice Buchanan , with respect, you’re overthinking this one. My own daughter has learning difficulties, so I am the last person on earth to be unkind about people with disabilities. Nor did I say that the fact that the vet profession selects highly intelligent people and then educates them highly, means you can be assumed to be right. Just ‘better qualified’. It was just a bit of humour, though with a serious underlying point. And like a lot of humour these days, some will find offensive.
Ah, I just didn’t recognise it as humour. But thanks for letting me know I’m overthinking, silly me, you’ll know better
A post=implementation review will be too late. The genie will be well and truly out of the box.
Profession completely stuffed by its governing body
Candice Buchanan Oh dear, did that sound like I was mansplaining / being patronising. Sorry if it read that way. I didn't mean ‘Silly you’! All I meant was that you’ve read something into it that I didn’t mean! It happens sometimes. Danger of the written word.
I am actually thankful that the majority of the professionals who responded to this surgery are thinking along the same lines that I do . And amused by the percentage distribution of independent to rporate repondents being exactly the same
Prescribing without consultation in person is far too broad to be meaningful. There is quite a difference between treatments such as prescription wormers/ antiparasitics and antibiotics or cardiac treatments. Surely there should be some room for common sense.
Barbara Bennett Hi. Isn't the question of animal welfare being compromised about more than the safety profile of the drug itself? (in any event, antibiotics cant be remote prescribed). Surely the equally important issue is that of missed diagnoses? ie other conditions you didn't spot because you didn't physically examine the animal.
Publishing Editor: Arlo Guthrie
Clinical Editor: Alasdair Hotston Moore MA VetMB CertSAC CertVR CertSAS FRCVS
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